Today I begin a series that I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. I have done a number of posts on various video games I’ve like, but I’ve also wanted to do a series on some of my most notable gaming disappointments. These games are not bad, but they did not live up to my expectations. Thankfully, I only have three or four games in mind. We’ll start with what was probably my biggest disappointment of 2010; Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor (2010)
Medal of Honor: Frontline (2002)

The Medal of Honor games started out back in 1999 when World War 2 shooters were still popular. I played several of the Medal of Honor games during the PS2 era and generally liked what I experienced. As it dragged on however, the series slowly stagnated and became fatigued as more games came out, foreshadowing to a lesser degree the fate that would be experienced by the Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk series of games. The military shooter genre had become crowded and other series like Call of Duty and Battlefield were gaining market share by innovating and (importantly) breaking out of the World War 2 setting that the Medal of Honor series clung to. After suffering a steady decline at the hands of critics and gamers alike, the series came to a halt in 2007 and disappeared from the gaming scene. The years that followed were a much needed break, though no doubt some hoped that the Medal of Honor games would never come back. In 2010, however, the series was rebooted in what looked like would be a fresh and interesting start. Trailers like the one below really got my attention:

 

Ditching World War 2 for the modern day, Medal of Honor seemed to be taking a page from the Call of Duty and Battlefield playbooks and finally getting with the times. With a new developer, Danger Close, the game would be set amongst the conflict in Afghanistan and looked to be telling a somewhat more realistic story of soldiers in combat. True, stories of Special Forces units and other elite soldiers are a dime-a-dozen in video games, but I was curious to see how the rebooted Medal of Honor would treat the subject. Enough years had passed since my last Medal of Honor game that I was ready to let go of some of the previous shortcomings in the series and start over with a clean slate. As the time grew closer and closer to release, I found myself really looking forward to the new game. Sadly, when it finally came out I found myself disappointed with the end product.
The enemies are content to just let you kill them.
From the first few minutes of the campaign it became clear to me that Medal of Honor was a functional game, but it also had some problems. The shooting mechanics worked just as you would expect and would be familiar to anyone who has played games like it, but there were some notable technical flaws and the gameplay was run of the mill. Texture and graphical pop-ins and drops in the framerate made it clear that Medal of Honor was not as polished a title as it could be. Ever-annoying invisible walls reared their ugly head and a number of times you have stop to wait awhile for your teammates to perform a certain action or have a conversation in order to advance. I was willing to let things like this slide at first, but as the game progressed I had a hard time ignoring these shortcomings. The game was also too easy on the normal difficulty. This mainly has to do with the game’s absurdly stupid enemy AI. The enemies would shoot and take cover about as well as any others you would find in video games, but they acted in extremely predictable ways and didn’t have any tactical sense about them. Much of the time they would come across as completely inept fighters and you would wonder if the local warlord who hired them couldn’t find anyone better to recruit.
Elite operative? Yes. Interesting person? Not really.
On top of this, the storyline of Medal of Honor didn’t quite click with me. Medal of Honor is a story of soldiers struggling against hostile foes and environments, plans that fall apart and a commander back in America who just doesn’t get it. It’s not a bad story by any means, but I didn’t find the characters all that interesting. On the plus side, several of the characters rock awesome beards, which is something I’d like to see more of in these types of games. By emphasizing realism I think Danger Close tried to give us a story that’s more compelling than that of the average shooter, but it also limited them in what they could do. There’s no particularly memorable mission in the campaign and what’s there has been done already (and frequently better) in other games. The events of the campaign are more like a checklist of mandatory items in a military themed game. Infiltrating an enemy base? Check. Assaulting a fortified position? Check. Sniping? Check. On-rails shooting? Check. Desperate last stand while waiting for rescue? Check. Medal of Honor’s story does everything you expect and does it fine, but not great. You’ll never be blown away by what you’re doing and at about six hours, the campaign is also much too short.
Does this look familiar? It should.
After I finished Medal of Honor’s singleplayer campaign, I decided to give multiplayer a try. Interestingly enough, the multiplayer of Medal of Honor was developed by a different studio than the one that did the singleplayer. DICE, the studio behind the Battlefield series was brought in to build and manage the multiplayer experience, and they did a decent job. There were only a few maps, modes and character classes, but I have to commend DICE for making the most out of what they had to work with. Still, even the multiplayer masters at DICE could only do so much to salvage Medal of Honor’s online experience and what you have is a largely functional but utterly average multiplayer game.
When I first sat down with Medal of Honor I had high hopes that it would be a fresh and interesting take on the military shooter genre and a reinvigoration of a revered series. This was not to be. Medal of Honor was a mediocre game that would be followed two years later by a better but still unexceptional sequel. From what I’ve read, last year Danger Close was restructured and brought into the fold of DICE. There’s been no announcement as to whether another Medal of Honor game will come out, but I fear that if the series does not make some major improvements it will die a second ugly death.

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